ATK, defending champions of the Indian Super League (ISL), have had a very poor start to their title defence. Teddy Sheringham had to wait till their fifth game of the season to notch his first win as ATK manager.
It was no surprise that it coincided with ATK's marquee player Robbie Keane's first start of the season after an injury-enforced abasence.
Robbie Keane had been sidelined with an Achilles' injury which meant he made his first appearance as a substitute in a 3-2 loss to Chenaniyin FC away. But he started the two subsequent games for ATK, both of which were won 1-0 by the Kolkata-based team.
He played a starring role in the latest win on Saturday against Delhi Dynamos, netting the matchwinner. However, Keane surprised one and all in Kolkata by announcing after the game that he was leaving the country for a whole week in order to celebrate Christmas with his family.
His comments came right after manager Teddy Sheringham appeared baffled by the news.
"I do not know where this is coming from. He is here to do his job and play football, be it anytime. I have played football during Christmas for more than 25 years. I am sure he has done for a long time now and will continue to do so," said Sheringham.
Robbie Keane is expected to return to India only on January 1st, 2018, two days before ATK's next ISL game against FC Goa. While it appears as though he will not be missing any games for the franchise, it sets a very bad precedent for the future and reeks of unprofessionalism.
Especially with the team just getting back to good form after a poor start, it appears as though Keane does not care about gelling with his Indian teammates and putting the hard yards in the training ground.
Also, it sends a wrong message to the rest of the team that one player is more privileged. One has to note that the development comes despite the manager's remarks ridiculing such a notion.
Will ATK allow Indian players in the squad to go celebrate Christmas for such an extended period of time, if they also wish the same? Will other teams allow players to go celebrate other regional festivals by taking such extended breaks?
Leave preferential treatment aside, it shows an utter lack of respect for the team management from Robbie Keane.
It is very hard to envisage Keane taking such an extended break if he was plying his trade in the Premier League or even the MLS, even if there was a break of eight or ten days between games.
Even when he was injured during the start of the season, Keane opted to recuperate alone at home rather than stay in India. One wonders how serious Robbie Keane is taking the ISL, given a display of lackadaisical attitude so far.
He might be the marquee player of the team but first and foremost, he has a job to do, and has the responsiblity to show his teammates what a model professional is, given his immense experience at the highest levels of the game.
Judging by such decisions, he has not been one so far!